Friday, 10 February 2012
No Write Offs
Matthew 7:3-5
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Our society tends to unfairly label people based on one thing that they said or did. We never let them forget their mistakes. We never forgive them. We may feel justified in feeling that way because that one thing they did was a terrible crime, but that doesn’t make it right. God still cares about that person. It is His will that all should come to repentance, even if that isn’t ours. I think that is why it takes very special people to do prison ministries – people who can look past the deed and see the person that God loves.

Let’s look at a Biblical example. I think that Job’s wife has been given a bad rap. Yes, she was wrong to say to her husband, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). But how many people have written her off, left her there in that state of distress and judged her to be an angry, bitter woman – end of story?

Undoubtedly, Job was a man who suffered greatly, ironically because he loved God so much. Satan couldn’t believe that a man could love and serve God under great affliction. He was sure that if Job lost everything he would curse God. God had faith in Job (isn’t that a wonderful thing?!) and allowed Satan to bring the afflictions upon him. We read in chapter 1 that Job first lost all his livestock and most of his servants to thieves and fire. Then all 10 of his children are killed when the house in which they were feasting collapsed under a heavy wind. We try to picture these things happening to us and we can imagine how devastating this would be to Job. We wonder how he could hold up under such painful conditions.

Job 1:20-22
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

People respond to great tragedy in a number of ways, and some of them are not good. It says that Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Job didn’t become a drunk. He didn’t start doing drugs. Job didn’t look around for someone to blame. He didn’t take his pain and anger out on others. He didn’t give up and mentally check out of life. What he did was fall to the ground and worship his God. I think that would be hard for most of us to do if we were in a similar situation. Job had an extraordinary relationship with God that is a great example for us to emulate.

Satan didn’t like being wrong, so he wanted to give Job another go. He was sure that if Job was afflicted personally in his body that he would surely curse God. So God allowed Satan to do so, as long as he didn’t take Job’s life. And that’s when Job was afflicted with painful boils from head to toe. He was in terrible misery and was surely repulsive to look at. But not even this physical pain and suffering could turn him away from God.

Job 2:9
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job was not the only person to suffer these situations. There were seven sons and three daughters that were killed, and they had a mother who birthed them, raised them, and loved them. She watched all her earthly wealth be stolen or burned up, and if you don’t think that is significant then you need to talk to someone who has had their home foreclosed or lost it in a fire. She watched her husband suffer great physical pain and torment on top of his emotional pain. Do we not suffer when our spouse or someone else we love suffers?  Can’t we understand why she would be pushed to the point of thinking it was better for him to die than to suffer?  Proverbs 29:11 says: A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. Job’s wife allowed her feelings to get the better of her and she spoke foolishly.

And that’s where most of us have left her . . . sounding foolish and angry and bitter. In one of my study Bible notes, it ponders the question of why Job’s wife wasn’t taken away from him like his children and property. The writer suggests that she was left behind to add to his suffering! I thought that was a horrible thing to suggest. I know a lot of jokes have been made about marriage relationships (Take my wife . . . PLEASE!). But a wife (or husband) is supposed to be a source of love and comfort, not a thorn in the other’s side.

She was Job’s wife. They had a covenant relationship, joined together by God, and I don’t think Satan could touch that. Job’s wife did make a mistake when she spoke, but her husband rebuked her and corrected her.  Job also had to repent and ask forgiveness for some of his words. (Job 42:6 -- Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”) In the end, God restored Job  . . . and his wife.

Job 42:12-17
Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days.

We may have labeled Job’s wife as a hateful woman and written her off. But God remembered her and the covenant relationship between husband and wife. He blessed their marriage with more children, and Job and his wife were not young. Their first 10 children were all grown and living on their own when they were killed. If God was able to forgive Job’s wife and bless her with 10 children, a healthy husband and financial prosperity, who are we to judge her?

As Christians, we are all ministers of the gospel. We are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone. In our church this year, our Pastor put up board with a tree on it. He told us that God said to write the names of people we wanted to see saved and in church. Everyone rushed to write the names of their family members and friends. Then he told us that God said to add the names of people we didn’t want to come to the church. What?!? That really caused some head scratching. I heard a few people say they wanted everyone to come, and they may have been sincere. But I wonder if we are really honest if we would do it. Would we have written the name of someone like Job’s wife on there? Would we write down the name of the drug dealer down the street? Do we want him to come to our church? What about a person that hurt our feelings, and who we think is bitter and hateful? Do we want her to come to our church? What about the young people with piercings, tattoos and pink hair hanging around on the corner? Do we want them coming to our church?

God is not respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), but unfortunately we tend to be. He does want our friends and loved ones to be saved. But He also wants the drug dealers, the bitter people and those rebellious youth, because they need Him just as much as your loved ones. He wants everyone. We have to be ready to receive them into the Church and be able to love them through God. With God, there are no write offs. When I think about my past and the labels that were placed on me because of the bad choices I made, I am so thankful that God didn’t write me off. Instead He saved me and gave me a new label – a child of the King.

Matthew 7:1-2
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

Posted on 02/10/2012 8:33 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 3 February 2012
Make a Place

Psalm 16:11
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

When I am studying and putting together a Sunday School lesson, I am always excited to see what will be revealed. Often there is a wonderful nugget of information or the revelation of a Godly principle that comes out that I hadn’t expected. That was the case a few weeks ago as I was preparing a lesson from Lamentations.

The book of Lamentations, which was written by the prophet Jeremiah, is not a book that most people are very familiar with, which is one of the reasons we are studying it. I think that we need to be knowledgeable of all the books of the Bible, not just the four Gospels.  Each of these books is in there for a reason. Lamentations is exactly what its name implies – a lament, a song of mourning. Jeremiah is grieving over the destruction of Jerusalem around 586 BC by the Babylonians. Once King Nebuchadnezzar’s army broke down the wall around Jerusalem, they destroyed or burned down most homes and buildings, including the Temple, God’s Dwelling Place. Most of the people were taken into captivity, leaving only a few poor people behind to tend the land. You can read about the final fall of Jerusalem in 2 Kings 25.

The people of Judah had been warned that this day of destruction was coming, but they didn’t listen to Jeremiah. As early as in the day of Moses, they had been warned what the consequences would be if they turned their backs on God, but they didn’t listen. Instead, they served other gods and idols. They went through the motions of serving God, but their hearts were far from him. They watched the same thing happen to their brothers in Israel in 721 BC when Assyria took them into captivity, but seemed to think it couldn’t happen to them. In Lamentations, Jeremiah speaks as Jerusalem, acknowledging that God is the one who brought the destruction upon them as punishment for their sin against Him. Jeremiah goes on to talk about God’s love and mercy, and how there was still hope for a relationship with the Lord. God would use the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people to bring them back into a right relationship with Him. And one day they would return and rebuild the temple and the walls. But in the meantime, He allowed the Babylonians to destroy their homes . . . and not just theirs, but His as well.

Lamentations 2:6-7
6 He has done violence to His tabernacle,
As if it were a garden;
He has destroyed His place of assembly;
The Lord has caused
The appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion.
In His burning indignation He has spurned the king and the priest.
7 The Lord has spurned His altar,
He has abandoned His sanctuary;
He has given up the walls of her palaces
Into the hand of the enemy.
They have made a noise in the house of the Lord
As on the day of a set feast.

With the temple gone, there was no longer a place for God in Jerusalem. There was no place for the people to gather and worship Him. Several times a year, many thousands of people poured into Jerusalem to celebrate certain feasts and observances mandated by God. Now there was no place to celebrate. There was no place for God, but mostly it was because the people no longer had a place in their hearts for Him. They were caught up in their own selves and had allowed other gods, idols and worldliness to fill up their lives. Sound familiar?

Where there is no place, there is no presence. If we want the presence of God in our lives, then we have to make a place for Him. We have to spend time in prayer, talking with Him, not at Him. We have to read and study His Word, so that we can learn from Him. We have to listen to His instruction and be obedient – and we know that obedience is better (and a lot less painful) than sacrifice. We have to seek His face and search Him out, examine ourselves daily, and as Paul said, “die daily” as we pursue a relationship in Christ. If we do these things, then we will feel and know the presence of the Lord in our lives, which is a wonderful thing to experience.

And here is the even better part. If you have made a place in your life for Him, then He will make a place for you.

John 14:2-3
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Have you made a place for God in your life? If so, how much room have you given Him? He has prepared a mansion for you. If you are just giving Him an hour on Sundays, then He doesn’t have much room to work with. When you open your entire heart to Him, your life will be transformed. Let God be present in your life; in His presence is fullness of joy.

Posted on 02/03/2012 7:50 AM by Susan Nelson
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